Reader: Honestly, Bakersfield Californian? What is the purpose of this article ("LA coroner: Burrous died of meth toxicity," Feb. 23) other than the posthumous shredding of his character? Is this really newsworthy? Seems far more sleazy tabloid. Wonder how Chris’ family feels when they read this. Would you want every poor judgment private thing you’ve ever done published?
— Anne Kelly
Reader: As a public person, the article is completely fair game. He was on air here and worked with his wife here. He is well-known here. Once you become a public person you are public, warts and all! Burrous was a broadcaster in the No. 2 market in the country. Had he just had a heart attack, this would be a minor story.
— Darren C. Bly
Reader: A lot of people were curious what this seemingly model family man was doing in a seedy motel with another man. Reporting the facts isn't personal, it's just facts. This was a pretty big story; it was going to be widely available in the media. I met Mr. Burrous on a live remote back when he was at KGET. Nice man, with a nice family. This whole story is very puzzling.
— Carl Driver
Price: The three of you generally describe the course of the newsroom debate over this story among editors. You all speak truth.
The story is among the most salacious we've published. To recap, Chris Burrous, a longtime anchor at KTLA in Los Angeles, and a former anchor at KGET in Bakersfield, died Dec. 27 of methamphetamine toxicity while engaging in sexual activity, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. The autopsy report, released Feb. 22, explicitly described the minutes and seconds leading to his death. That's as far as I'm going to go here.
The story omitted some of the most, shall we say, unusual details of that afternoon at the Glendale Days Inn, but still provided more information than some readers felt was appropriate. The subject of most reader complaints, however, was the online publication of the autopsy report.
The autopsy report was published only on the web, not in print. A prominent banner across the top of it read: "Note: The report contains graphic details not suitable for some audiences." In the title of the actual report, we inserted "Contains explicit detail." The most salacious information began seven pages into the 22-page document, which included separate toxicology and coroner's investigative reports. You had to have been willing to be shocked to have proceeded past those warnings and click forward that deep into the document.
Not everyone here at The Californian agrees with me, although most do: It was a step too far. A few steps, probably.
We pulled the report off the web after about three hours.
I don't recall us ever having second-guessed ourselves like that, but it was the right thing to do.
Public figures do leave themselves open to more prying than ordinary people. They know, or should know, that that's just the way it is. But, unless their actions harmed others, they also deserve a measure of privacy. One could argue that Burrous' actions harmed his family, though, and that's where I'm conflicted.
What do you think?
Reader: How disingenuous of Robert Price to rationalize the way The Californian reports about crime and victims of crime ("Sound Off: Shocked at our coverage of the homicide, or just the homicide itself?," Feb 23). It has not changed since the influx of Hispanic and others of color into Bakersfield in large numbers. It used to be the newspaper only reported the larger crimes and avoided the usual run-of-the-mill crimes. With the diminishing numbers of the dominant demographic, all that changed.
Minor crimes in the white, affluent demographic are not considered news. On the other hand, in the not-so-well-thought-of areas of the city every fender bender or disagreement with a neighbor is headline news. Then the editors pull out their established, boilerplate profile of the nasty evil Hispanic to instill fear in this already traumatized conservative Christian dump.
— Panfilo Fuentes
Price: Pete, your letter appeared in my inbox a short time after we posted Steven Mayer's story about a fatal stabbing, so I assume that's what you're referring to ("'Mikey Smash,' killed in downtown knifing, had apparent Hells Angels affiliation," Feb. 22). The victim's name was Michael Adam Morales, so I assume you're calling attention to his Latino surname.
In what world is a fatal stabbing on a downtown street populated with Saturday night revelers a "usual run-of-the-mill crime"? Police have still not identified a suspect; should we wait to find out what kind of last name he has before we report anything further?
I don't like to throw around the "R" word, so I won't, but suggesting that we should have declined to report on a very public homicide so as not to offend a particular ethnicity (is that what you're actually saying?) strikes me as pretty close to that overused classification.
Please fire an email over to me if you run across any fender benders involving Hispanics that we've missed.